At the recent Achema conference and trade fair in Frankfurt, Germany, the association sponsoring the event generated several press releases. This one in particular seemed relevant and interesting to an automation readership.

Achema press release

Automation technology is a major factor which drives industry forward. It was regarded in the past as a job killer, but it has actually turned out to be just the opposite. The automation industry generates employment inside Germany’s borders. Many of the companies are SMEs, and they have succeeded in retaining their innovative edge. Suppliers have been taken on an economic roller coaster ride for the past few years, and the economic crisis has had a massive effect on the market. However, the industry is now well positioned again and ready to capture new markets. The year of crisis did not actually weaken the industry. Automation suppliers saw the crisis as an opportunity, and they are now even more responsive to the needs and preferences of users who are of course their customers.

To an increasing extent, IT has become a driving force in the development process. Globalization is another factor in the equation. German companies have a high export quota, making them very dependent on international political and economic developments. How ever, many automation suppliers are able to exploit that situation to their advantage.

Automation systems create flexibility

The manufacturing industry needs a great deal of flexibility to stay in step with today’s market expectations. Automation engineering has taken on that challenge. Even out on the production floor, intelligent production management using tools such as lean production, production on demand, mass customization, global production management and supply chain management is no longer feasible without intelligent, adaptive automation systems.

The increasing importance of automation system networking is also apparent. The traditional distinction between discrete manufacturing, process and building automation is becoming less and less relevant as the boundaries become blurred. Electromechanical, electrical and automation systems are more closely entwined. Intelligent power supply equipment is now integrated into automation networks, providing preventive maintenance information for controllers and SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems. The role of engineering, design, planning, data management and service software as an information provider is also becoming increasingly significant. However, technology for supplying information in a data format which can be readily transferred from one automation device to another without programming effort is often still in its infancy. There is also work to be done to make the equipment more user friendly, and that is an area where there are plenty of opportunities for innovation. The earnings generated following the economic crisis now need to be invested in R&D.

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